Walking through town on a break from college, suicidal thoughts were overwhelming me. I had battled with depression since 13 and now, aged 18, I felt like things couldn’t get any worse. How wrong was I?
I thought about whether or not I should kill myself, and if I was going to, how I would do it. All of a sudden, a male voice told me that I should kill myself. I can’t remember his exact words but he was telling me that suicide was a good idea. Hearing this voice made me jump. I looked around to see who had said it. Who had been listening to my thoughts and was now responding to them?
No one was around. I started walking a little bit faster to get away from this strange voice but when he started saying why I should kill myself and telling me how to do it, I felt strangely comforted. I had no idea where this voice was coming from, but as he could hear my thoughts, I started talking back to him through my thoughts. I ended up in such a deep conversation with him that I ended up walking back to college on autopilot and was unable to actually kill myself there and then.
The comfort I received from this voice was short-lived. He soon turned nasty and the next two years were spent silently suffering with this evil voice. When the voice threatened to kill my family if I ate, I didn’t eat for six weeks. After two weeks of not eating, I was sectioned as a danger to myself and ended up in hospital for eight weeks. I was forced into taking an anti-psychotic medication and suffered painful and distressing side effects from it.
Ten months after I was released from hospital, I was sectioned a second time. This time I was in hospitals for 17 months. I say hospitals because I was in a regular psychiatric ward for a year followed by five months in a specialist unit. I had been on a different anti-psychotic for a few months before my second section which, although had fewer side effects, still left me zombie-like.
In hospital, I was put on another anti-psychotic, my third one. I should point out that I was only on one anti-psychotic at a time with these three. This third anti-psychotic had a terrible side effect. Akathisia. Akathisia is an inability to remain motionless. It left me unable to sleep properly as I was always feeling the urge to walk around, especially at night. A few weeks after I started this third drug, I begged a student nurse to kill me because I couldn’t cope with the akathisia. It was the lowest point of my life.
Thankfully, a few hours after I had begged the student nurse to kill me, I was given a medication to help me with the akathisia and although it didn’t take it away, I could cope with life again. The akathisia was a sort of wake up call though. I had thought there was nothing worse than this voice that was doing its best to kill me. Akathisia was certainly worse than anything I had experienced up to that point!
I began to hear two other groups of voices at this point. Thankfully, neither of them talked directly to me and I learned to just ignore them. The original voice or ‘dominant voice’ was the only problematic voice I experienced. I was then put on a fourth anti-psychotic which left me so drowsy that I was able to sleep through the night without being awoken by akathisia anymore. It was bittersweet though as the drowsiness was severe and left me feeling zombie-like and frustrated again. Six months after starting the fourth anti-psychotic, I was put on a fifth alongside the fourth.
After a year in hospital, I was moved to the specialist unit. Here, I started seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis and within a few months, we had managed to get to the route of my voices. For the first time, I was able to see that they weren’t real. It was a turning point for me. Now that I knew the voices weren’t real, they lost their power. The dominant voice changed from being constant to infrequent almost immediately. It was like a switch flipped in my head. I began to feel almost ‘normal’ again. The other two voices had also stopped and I began to experience a strange new phenomenon. Silence.
I was extremely lucky with the way my voices stopped. I have been told how rare it is. However, I would recommend that anyone who is plagued by any form of hallucination (whether it is voices, seeing things or any other hallucination) begins talking therapy as soon as possible. Medication can be useful but it doesn’t necessarily get rid of hallucinations.
Anti-psychotics are badly named in my experience. ‘Anti-psychotic’ to me would indicate that the drugs cure psychosis. They don’t. I’ve had numerous health professionals ‘admitting’ to me that anti-psychotics are just tranquilisers. Yes, tranquilisers can help with psychotic symptoms but they will not cure them and can leave a person addicted to a drug even if the psychosis goes away.
My official diagnosis these days is that I have a ‘schizophrenic illness’. It’s not been narrowed down any further than that. It’s a bit frustrating but to be honest, I’m scared that if I push the diagnosis issue too far, I could end up with yet another diagnosis. My other official diagnoses are depression and severe arachnophobia and that’s enough for one person! I’ve been told that I possibly have an anxiety disorder but I’d rather not be known by my illnesses. I am a person and not my illnesses.
Saying that, I am @SchizophrenicGB on Twitter which could contradict my last sentences! The reason I chose that name was so that others struggling with a schizophrenic illness could feel more comfortable asking me for help. I am not perfect and I’m definitely not a professional but I do my best and if I can’t help, I can at least point someone in the right direction.
In this post, I have only really discussed one part of my illness – the voices I heard. However, I suffered with other symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and intrusive thoughts. I’ve only written about the voices because each of the symptoms I had could be made into a book! I chose to write about the voices because many who have never heard a voice can find the subject fascinating. To show what it’s like, I created a video that demonstrates the experience.
As my illness leaves me unable to work, I write. Partly because I find it therapeutic and partly because other people have told me they find it useful. Helping others is my only way of feeling a sense of my own worth. I’ve struggled with feelings of worthlessness since I was 13 (I’m now 24) and with attitudes towards people on disability benefits at an all-time low, these feelings can come back when benefits are discussed. I make myself feel better by writing for others and my dream is that one day, I will earn enough money from writing and get off benefits. I have a dream. That means that I’m thinking of the future.
For me, that’s positive.
Katy is a 24 year old living in North Wales. She has lived with depression since she was 13, severe arachnophobia since she was 15 and schizophrenia since she was 18. Katy’s blog is: Female, Twenty Something, Schizophrenic, GSOH. She is also on Twitter: @SchizophrenicGB, and her YouTube channel is here.